New Nurse Graduates / NCLEX
One of the things nursing students start discussing in the first few weeks of their degree program is “passing the boards.” This often-revered subject is also known as the NCLEX exam.
So, what is all of this talk of “boards” and “NCLEX”? Simply put, the NCLEX, or National Council Licensure Examination, is a test every registered nurse must take after graduating from an accredited nursing program. Passing this exam is a reflection of your knowledge and skills gained as a prospective registered nurse.
There’s no need to fret about taking the NCLEX, though. We’ve prepared a guide to help you understand everything you need to know. In this article, we’ll discuss:
- Why do you need to take the NCLEX?
- What are the educational requirements?
- What are the types of questions?
- When should you take the NCLEX?
- What if you fail the NCLEX?
- How can you prepare for the NCLEX?
Why do you need to take the NCLEX?
Offered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), the NCLEX is rigorously designed to prove that a nursing licensure candidate is prepared to practice entry-level nursing. To earn your nursing license and become a registered nurse, you must first pass the NCLEX exam.
What are the educational requirements?
To sit for the NCLEX, the minimum degree requirement is an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). You can also complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Regardless of which degree path you pursue, upon completion, you can apply with your state board of nursing for licensure and then register to take the NCLEX.
What are the types of questions?
What can you expect to find on the NCLEX exam? The test questions are designed using Computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT), which means when you answer a question, the next one given to you is based on what the computer estimates as your ability level.
The exam starts with 15 pre-test questions and then depending on your performance, you will get a minimum of 75 questions and a maximum of 145 questions. The maximum time allowed for the exam is 5 hours.
You can pass or fail regardless of the number of questions you answer. This is because of the adaptive nature of the test. The computer will give you questions at your ability level until you can’t answer them correctly, or have shown a satisfactory level of competency.
The format of the test is the same whether you take the NCLEX-RN or the NCLEX-PN (for Licensed Practical Nurses). The questions on the exam will relate to nursing skills, medications, drug calculations, and more. For example, you may see a question similar to this:
A nurse is caring for a patient with newly diagnosed type II diabetes mellitus who has been ordered to begin metformin. The nurse knows that the presence of which of the following in the patient’s medical history would represent a contraindication to this therapy?
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
- Renal failure
- Uncontrolled hypertension
- Seizure disorder
Expert advice from nurses like you
When should you take the NCLEX?
The NCLEX should be taken after you graduate from a nursing degree program. You will have to follow some steps to be able to schedule your exam:
- Apply for licensure/registration with the state board of nursing for the state where you intend to practice
- Register to take the exam
- Pay any fees associated with the exam
- Take the exam within 90 days of receiving your Authorization to Test (ATT)
What if you fail the NCLEX?
If you fail the NCLEX, you will receive a report called the NCLEX Candidate Performance Report (CPR). This two-page individualized report will help you understand areas of weakness to focus on before re-taking the NCLEX exam. You can retake the exam no sooner than 45 days after your first attempt.
How can you prepare for the NCLEX?
There are several key approaches to consider when preparing for the NCLEX so you can be successful when the big day finally arrives.
This is the first and most important step in preparing for the NCLEX. An accredited nursing program is designed to give you all the knowledge you need to pass the exam and earn your nursing license. As part of this, schools will often have nursing students take a practice NCLEX, to help them learn the format and types of questions they can expect from the real test.
A study guide helps you familiarize yourself with the structure and content of the NCLEX exam. The NCSBN provides one of their own, called the Test Plan, that you can use to prepare for the exam. Or, you can buy an NCLEX study guide book that is packed with practice tests and examples.
In addition to the self-guided study available to you through study guides, you can opt for the more robust preparation of a test prep course. These are available through providers like Kaplan, whose instructors walk you through understanding the exam and successfully taking practice tests.
You’ve made it through your NCLEX exam day! Now what? You can pay an additional fee to receive unofficial results within 2 business days. Official results can take up to 6 weeks to arrive.
While you wait for your results, you can start planning your next moves as a registered nurse. Once you have your license, you’ll want to start applying for jobs. You can talk to experienced nurses for advice on employers, nursing job roles, and what the best cities are for new nurse grads. You’ll also want to prepare your resume – you can use a pre-made template to make this process easier.
After your passing results come in, be sure to celebrate all the hard work that led to this moment. You are now officially a registered nurse!
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- “Candidate Performance Report.” ncsbn.com. Accessed June 8, 2022.
- “Computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT).” nclex.com. Accessed June 8, 2022.
- “Contact the U.S. Member.” ncbsn.com. Accessed June 8, 2022.
- “COVID-19 Impact to NCLEX Candidates.” ncsbn.org. Accessed June 8, 2022.
- “NCLEX Practice Exams.” nclex.com. Accessed June 9, 2022.
- “NCLEX: The Pathway to Practice.” nclex.com. Accessed June 8, 2022.
- “Pass the NCLEX Like a Nurse.” kaptest.com. Accessed June 9, 2022.
- “Pharmalogical and Parenteral Therapies Practice Test for the NCLEX-RN Exam.” uniontestprep.com. Accessed June 10, 2022.
- “Registration Process.” nclex.com. Accessed June 8, 2022.
- “Test Plans.” nclex.com. Accessed June 8, 2022.
- Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash